From energizing the crowd with their spirited fight song to performing intricate field shows at halftime, there’s nothing quite like a college marching band.
The marching band is by far one of the best traditions in all of college football, as bands everywhere bring their own special attributes which electrify the atmosphere at football games.
While the University of Wisconsin Marching Band has unfortunately put their football game appearances on hiatus this season, this time of year would normally have the band making high stepping appearances at every Saturday gameday.
The glimpse you get of the band at pregame and halftime, however, is just one small part of the gameday experience for a band member as the band’s day lasts a lot longer than just the football game. From practice to concerts to jumping around, the band stays busy each and every Saturday. Here is a typical gameday in the life of a member of the UW Marching Band.
While the rest of campus is sleeping in after a long week of school, the marching band is up and at ‘em bright and early for 7 a.m. gameday practice. Some sections of the band, such as tubas and some trombones, will even meet as early as 6 a.m., making them some of the first members of campus to begin gameday preparations.
Morning practice is the band’s last chance to run through its pregame and halftime performances before Camp Randall, making it a crucial opportunity to catch any errors in the show. It is also an important mental check for members as no flip folders are allowed, forcing marchers to recall their music and marching steps by memory.
Dismissal and suit-up
After the two hour morning practice, the band dismisses until their appearance at Union South. Depending on the kickoff time for the football game, this can be anywhere from an hour and a half to five hours of free time.
During this time, many band members return home to eat a meal before the long day begins. When the time comes to meet at Union South for the Badger Bash, members dress in their uniform, grab their instruments and pack items such as their phone, keys, wallet, winter hat, gloves and snacks into a bag.
The band then travels to Union South for its usual tailgate performance at the Badger Bash. During the Badger Bash, the band will run through its halftime music as well as a few other traditional pieces such as the opposing team’s fight song, “You’ve Said It All” and, of course, “On Wisconsin.”
It is here where members warm up and get a quick run-through of their music before making their first appearance of the day. Director Corey Pompey also addresses the band prior to the Badger Bash, reminding them to stay focused and to have fun throughout the day.
Stadium entrance and Pregame
Once the Badger Bash ends, the band travels across the street to Camp Randall, entering the stadium through the Davis Gate, which leads right to the band’s field entrance tunnel where they wait for about 15 minutes until they can take the field.
It is here where tensions rise as both the excitement about the impending performance and anxiety over not messing up in front of 80,000 fans reach a peak. Many subsections of the rank gather during this time to perform pregame rituals, wishing each other luck before taking the field. Once the football team enters the locker room, it’s showtime, and the band takes the field for pregame.
First half and halftime
Pregame ends with the band forming a tunnel and welcoming the football team to the field with a chorus of “On Wisconsin.” With pregame completed, the band takes its place in the stands and watches the game, waiting patiently for the first touchdown.
When a Badger touchdown is inevitably scored, the band plays “Hot Time” in celebration, followed by “On Wisconsin” after the extra point. Once the game clock reaches four minutes in the second quarter, the band “saddles up” and exits the stands toward the field for their halftime performance.
Once halftime is over, the real party begins. The band has finished with both of the gameday field show performances and can finally take a deep breath and relax, relieving the day’s stress. Every member of the band then gets a post-halftime apple to eat, as well as a snack provided by other members of their subsection group.
Some members will also travel around the stadium to play “On Wisconsin” for fans in the stands during this time. They then participate in “Jump Around” and the student section race and wait for the Fifth Quarter.
You know it, you love it — it’s the Fifth Quarter! The band takes the field one last time following the conclusion of the game. Here, the band is less structured as members run amuck on the field while playing classic songs such as “Varsity,” “Hey Baby” and “Swingtown.”
Following the Fifth Quarter, the band proceeds down University Avenue to the Humanities building where Pompey and the drum major dismiss the band for the day. They then turn in their uniforms for cleaning and head home. Many members are exhausted at this point from the day’s activity and take this time for a well deserved post-game nap.